Saturday 10th – Sunday 11th December 2016
Saturday 10th December
Hornets Sting Everton: Watford 3 – 2 Everton
Everton went into an early lead at Vicarage Road, thanks to Romelu Lukaku making the most of a sweet pass from Gareth Barry, but the Hornets stung back with two goals from Stefano Okaka – his first for the club – in the 36th and 64th minutes. Another, from Austrian Prödl sealed the deal for Watford, though Lukaku did manage another one for the Toffees a few minutes before full-time, to soften the defeat. Watford’s multi-national line-up, consisting of no less than eleven different nationalities, nevertheless showed a decisive cohesiveness that simply outclassed a struggling Everton. Watford climbed to 7th in the table, while Everton fell to 9th.
Gunning for the Top: Arsenal 3 – 1 Stoke City
The Gunners continued their impressive winning streak, beating Stoke at the Emirates Stadium, after coming from behind in the 42nd minute, when Walcott equalised Adam’s earlier 29th minute penalty. Then it was down to Özil and Iwobi to put the home side two ahead by the final whistle. Arsenal had flirted with trouble early on in the game when Xhaka injured Allen with his elbow, leading to the Potter’s opening penalty, and Mustafi was missing through injury, but Bellerin, his replacement, showed his worth, keeping the pressure on Stoke and enabling Walcott’s equaliser. Overall, the Gunners look on top form and were left 1st in the league, while stoke dropped to 10th.
A Break for Burnley: Burnley 3 – 2 Bournemouth
Burnley won a much-needed victory at Turf Moor, as they beat Bournemouth by a single goal. Jeff Hendrick, Burnley’s record signing, found the goal after jut thirteen minutes, and was followed by his Republic of Ireland teammate, Stephen Ward, just three minutes later. Hendrick’s airborne style and an enthusiastic show by the Clarets meant that, despite boasting just 30% possession, they weren’t seriously challenged until Afobe got a goal just after half-time, and then Charlie Daniel’s racked up another in the first minute of injury time, making the Clarets sweat. Burnley climbed to 13th in, while Bournemouth fell to 11th.
Frustration for Palace: Hull City 3 – 3 Crystal Palace
The visiting Eagles managed to hold the Tigers to a draw, despite the home side taking an early lead thanks to a controversial Snodgrass penalty. Unfortunately for Hull, Snodgrass then gave Palace the opportunity to equalise after he felled Zaha in a challenge, resulting in Benteke landing a penalty. Zaha then gave Palace the lead in the 70th minute, before Dimonande and Livermore quickly, and stylishly, reasserted the Tiger’s lead. The thrills lasted until the end, when Campbell secured a draw with a goal in the 89th minute. Replays confirmed that Snodgrass’s first-half penalty shouldn’t have been awarded, so the result was inevitably frustrating for Palace, though Pardew was understanding of the referee’s difficult angle.
Swans Fly Again: Swansea City 3 – 0 Sunderland
The Swans claimed a valuable victory at the Liberty Stadium, against struggling Sunderland. Swansea manager Bradley had made several changes to the line-up in the wake of the abysmal result against Tottenham, and they seemed to pay off. It was in the second-half of a very wet match that the Swans found their confidence with Sigurdsson netting a penalty, given for Denayer’s handball, and Llorente scoring two goals. The match saw Swansea climb out of the relegation zone, but Sunderland sunk again to the bottom of the league.
Foxes Still Have It: Leicester City 4 – 2 Manchester City
The reigning champions showed they still have what it takes as they pulled of an incredible victory over Manchester City at the King Power Stadium. The victory was, in large part, down to a stunning hat-trick from Jamie Vardy, who had opened the scoring in the 3rd minute, and followed it up in the 20th and 78th. But King had followed Vardy just two minutes later, putting the Foxes two up after just five minutes. It was a flashback to last season’s solid defending and sharp counter-attacking from Leicester, and it was only in the last eight minutes that Kolarov and Nolito managed to salvage something for a shambolic City. Pep Guardiola will need to do some hard thinking, especially about defence, whereas Claudio Ranieri will be looking for a way to keep the momentum up. Leicester climbed to 14th in the league and Man City remained 4th.
Sunday 11th December
Baggies Give the Blues a Hard Time: Chelsea 1 – 0 West Bromwich Albion
It was looking like the Baggies were going to earn a point and hold Chelsea to a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge, in a game of determined defence on the part of West Brom. But Diego Costa managed to exploit a mistake by McAuley, and found the back of the net in the 76th minute, giving the Blues a narrow victory. The win – their 9th in a row – moved Chelsea back to the top of the league, but West Brom, remaining at 8th can’t be too hard on themselves given their impressive, and mostly effective effort.
United Finding their Form Again: Manchester United 1 – 0 Tottenham Hotspur
Mourinho’s side looked like they may have been finding their form again, defeating Spurs at Old Trafford. Tottenham enjoyed no shortage of possession, but failed to create chances against a confident United. It was an eventful match for United’s Mkhitaryan, who’s first Premier League goal (also the first Premier League goal by an Armenian) gave them victory, as he was stretchered off with an ankle injury in the final ten minutes. Tottenham remained at 5th and United at 5th in the league.
Boufal Makes His Mark: Southampton 1 – 0 Middlesbrough
Sofiane Boufal gave the Saints victory over Middlesbrough at St. Mary’s Stadium, with his first ever Premier League goal. Boufal, a record signing for Southampton, arrived from Lille in August and Southampton manager Claude Puel must be hoping this is a sign of things to come. Middlesbrough are in serious trouble, with only 13 goals to show for 15 games in the Premier League, and manager Aitor Karanka needs to address Boro’s offensive capability urgently. Southampton climbed to 10th in the table, while Middlesbrough remained down at 16th.
Liverpool’s Loose Defence: Liverpool 2 – 2 West Ham United
Despite being the Premier League’s top goal scorers this season, the Reds managed to get a paltry three shots on target against West Ham at Anfield. It was a tough match, but Liverpool failed to display the focused energy needed to deal with the Hammers decisively. Lallana had put Liverpool ahead after just five minutes, but Payet equalised for West Ham at the 27’mark, before Antonio put the visitors in the lead at 39’. Thanks to a glaring mistake by West Ham keeper Darren Randolph, Origi managed to equalise for the home side at 48’, but neither side could get ahead after that. Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will probably be taking a good look at his rear line of defence, including keeper Loris Karius, as it didn’t take a stretch of the mind to imagine the goals they conceded being stopped. West Ham were left just above the relegation zone, while Liverpool remained at number three.
Main photo: Oleskandr Osipov / Shutterstock.com